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Ex-state attorney general accused of violating ethics rules in Bellingham rape case

Tyler Ryan, left, pleads not guilty to child rape at his arraignment with his attorney, David Allen, in Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham Friday, July 21, 2017.
Tyler Ryan, left, pleads not guilty to child rape at his arraignment with his attorney, David Allen, in Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham Friday, July 21, 2017. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

A Whatcom County prosecutor this week accused former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna of “blatantly” violating attorney ethics for statements McKenna made to a local radio station about his client in a rape case.

This month prosecutors charged Tyler Eugene Ryan, 36, an executive director of financial services at Multop Financial, with raping a teenage babysitter in 2015. She made a report in recent weeks, where she alleged Ryan made unwanted advances on a fall night at his house in Bellingham. The girl told police she froze, then tried to scream, but he overpowered her, covered her mouth and raped her.

She was 13.

According to the girl’s report, when Ryan dropped her off at her house, he warned her: “If you tell anyone about this you’ll regret it.” She did not babysit for him again.

Police booked Ryan into jail last week on suspicion of second-degree rape and intimidating a witness, a felony. He pleaded not guilty Friday.

In the meantime one of Ryan’s attorneys, McKenna, told local radio station KGMI he’s confident Ryan will be vindicated, in part because he passed a polygraph test, and because of how much time passed before the report was made, according to the station’s online story on the arrest.

A deputy prosecutor, Eric Richey, countered in a court motion that McKenna omitted the fact Ryan failed a polygraph test at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, and the test Ryan passed had been paid for by his defense.

As a general rule, polygraph test results aren’t admissible in court in Washington state. “Lie detectors” have been widely criticized as inaccurate. The state’s Rules of Professional Conduct instruct lawyers not to publicize details about evidence that is likely inadmissible at trial.

“As the former Washington State Attorney General, Mr. McKenna should know better than to make extrajudicial statements to KGMI in violation of RPC 3.6,” Richey wrote in his motion. “The entire media stunt was designed to prejudice the state’s case against the defendant and possibly shake the victim’s confidence.”

McKenna, a Republican, was elected attorney general in 2004. He lost a race for governor against Jay Inslee in 2012. McKenna hasn’t held public office since. He did not respond to a request for comment this week.

McKenna also did not attend Ryan’s arraignment Friday.

The defense attorney of record, David Allen, told the prosecutor that McKenna isn’t on the criminal case, but Ryan is McKenna’s client, so they’re “working closely together on this,” according to Richey’s motion. The prosecutor asked a judge to prohibit McKenna and Allen from spreading publicity that could possibly prejudice a jury, or he would have to seek a change of venue.

Richey’s motion will go in front of a judge next week.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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